This novel should spark interest in Torné's previous two and anticipation for what’s to come.

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DIVORCE IS IN THE AIR

Nothing really happens outside the protagonist's head in this book, but the author's virtuosic command of voice sustains the narrative momentum.

This English-language debut by a young Spanish novelist could have been titled Joan-Marc’s Complaint, though the narrator doesn’t share the masturbatory obsession of Philip Roth’s hero. Yet he spews at length about his predicament in a soliloquy that extends past 300 pages and doesn’t pause for chapter breaks or have extra spaces to separate one section from the next. He is savagely funny, sometimes intentionally but often not, and his faith in “the healing power of humor” does not lead to the solution he desires. But what does he desire? And who is he? What is plain from the outset is that the narrator’s opinion of himself differs sharply from that of everyone else who enters his consciousness. The setup is that the narrator and his wife have come to a health spa at her instigation in order to heal their marriage. Accompanying them are her parents and a young boy, who must be the wife’s son but whose relationship to the narrator remains mysterious. The narration will return to the spa from time to time, but the scope of memory widens as the protagonist reveals that he is writing (or speaking) to his second wife about his marriage to his first wife and how the two were very different but ended much the same way. Why? “It’s the story of my life,” he says. “Neither of you could ever recognize my obvious merits.” To the contrary, one or both of his wives and the sister who despises him will, over the course of his tale, call him a homophobe, a repressed homosexual, a hypochondriac, a man who wants others to support him, and “a collection of missing pieces.” As narrator and reader attempt to put that puzzle together, the narration becomes darker and deeper until the protagonist realizes just how alone he is and how old he has become. “Sometimes I have the feeling that no matter what I do, life is impossible,” he says. “That’s the only lesson to learn, the only one we don’t want to learn.”

This novel should spark interest in Torné's previous two and anticipation for what’s to come.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35402-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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